Norilsk eyes South African platinum


8 February 2012

Platinum’s investment potential could exceed that of gold, Russia’s Norilsk Nickel told the Investing in African Mining Indaba in Cape Town on Tuesday. According to reports, the world’s largest producer of nickel and palladium is looking at platinum mine acquisitions in South Africa.

According to News agency Bloomberg, Roman Panov, Norilsk’s international assets director, said in a speech at the Mining Indaba that platinum, palladium and rhodium – together known as platinum group metals (PGMs) – “have investment potential comparable or even greater than gold”.

PGMs are used in devices that convert toxic gases in vehicle exhausts, as well as to make jewellery

Panov told news agency Reuters on the sidelines of the conference that Norilsk was “under current due diligence of some projects in South Africa for maybe a prospective acquisition deal here … It is too early to make an announcement right now, but we are extensively working this market. It is different companies in the PGM group, but primarily platinum.”

In a statement on Tuesday, Norilsk said South Africa – the world’s biggest producer of platinum, accounting for roughly three-quarters of global output – was “a priority region of the investment policy for MMC Norilsk Nickel.

“In accordance with the approved strategy of the company, besides nickel and other metals, PGM production will also play an important role in further development of operations on the African continent.”

Currently, Norilsk Nickel is the joint owner – with South Africa’s African Rainbow Minerals – of a 50% stake in the Nkomati Nickel Mine in Mpumalanga province. According to Norilsk, the mine has 159-million tons of proven reserves, including over 500 000 tons of nickel, 200 000 tons of copper and 150 000 tons of PGMs.

Norilsk said it regarded Nkomati as being “of great importance as a major investment project in South Africa”, adding that its total investments in the project already exceeded US$200-million.

Norilsk also owns 85% of the Tati Nickel project in neighbouring Botswana. Panov told Reuters that the company veiwed Botswana as well as Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Zambia as “potential regions for further development” in Africa.

SAinfo reporter